In the daylight, our journey northward was significantly easier than the white-knuckled adventure we had last night. I was in a fine mood as we breezed through the beautiful countryside. The cheerful atmosphere became much more sober as we passed through a small village with over one hundred people quietly standing along the sides of the road. Tiffanie noticed the substantial pool of blood on the asphalt as we approached and slowed down. There was no need to ask what happened: a person in the village was recently hit by some kind of vehicle, maybe even killed. It was a harsh reminder of 1) how hard life is for the people here and 2) how short life is for everyone and 3) how important it is to wear a helmet.
We arrived at the hotel recommended by our Airbnb host last night and got settled. Foreigners are not allowed to ride anything with a gas motor around Bagan, so we swapped out our Honda for two sweet eBikes that go about 10 km/hour, if you’re lucky. At first, I was annoyed by the restriction, but once we reached the main part of the city and I saw all the sheer number of tourists who could barely drive an eBike, I agreed with the government’s ban. Also, eBikes are extremely quiet, so the peacefulness of the city was maintained.
We rode into Old Bagan first and were blown away by all the ruins situated right next to the road. Several pointy mounds of brick in varying states of ruin lined the way, with much larger pagodas visible in the distance. It was hot and dry and the air was filled with suspended sand particles and ash. We ate lunch at a vegetarian spot on the backside of one of the larger temples and poked around for a bit before doubling back toward Nanga-U. We found a bar owned by a German woman right next door to Acacia Spa & Massage.
After a bit of joking–Acacia is Tiffanie’s sister’s name–we decided that after 12 hours on a motorcycle, our bodies deserved a treat. One of the best things about Myanmar and Thailand is the cheap prices for all kinds of bodywork. In this case, we both got an hour-long rub down for the price of lunch.
When we emerged from the spa, it was nearly sundown and we raced toward the pagodas south of the main road. On the way, a local named Pyuh offered to take us to a smaller, less crowded temple for sundown. Her viewpoint did not disappoint! Afterwards, she dragged us back to her home in Old Bagan and her parents poured us delicious tea while we looked around in wide-eyed wonder at our surroundings.
Pyuh offered to show us more pagodas on the following day and we happily accepted. My one lament about Bagan was the lack of maps or historical explanations. Even if we couldn’t understand each other well, Pyuh’s knowledge of the local temples was invaluable.